It was the night match that wasn't. The most eagerly-anticipated contest of the first round, pitting bounding aggression against docile brilliance, ended prematurely as Bernard Tomic was forced to retire against Rafael Nadal, trailing 4-6 after just a set on Tuesday night.
Playing in the still astonishingly warm conditions of tempestuous Tuesday, both players were reduced to sweaty messes after just a few exchanges. And entertaining exchanges they were, Tomic standing still and creeping forward, trying to cat-and-mouse Nadal with flat strokes and slice, forcing him out of his strike zone, while Nadal hopped, skipped and let rip.
But, serving at 30-15 in the first game, the Australian started grimacing, looking down at his leg, up at the sky, and over to his box.
Three games in, Tomic left the court for a medical timeout, returning with a roll of strapping on his upper leg.
A few games later, on the changeover, Tomic ripped off the aforementioned strapping, seemingly more bothered by its presence than absence. But still he could not move freely, and Nadal, fresh from winning a title in Doha, exploited the opportunity.
Flicking a forehand past Tomic to break serve in the ninth game, he served out the set.
"I was happy the way that I was playing," Nadal said. "Is fantastic to be back here in this great tournament after missing last year. I missed a lot be here. Is a place that I really love so much."
Moments later, Tomic walked to the net to tell Nadal he couldn't go on. Raising his hands to the Rod Laver Arena crowd in apology, and sitting with his towel on his head for a few moments, he was clearly in pain.
"It was sad. Unfortunately, I couldn't compete. It was very difficult for me to say sorry to the crowd," Tomic explained.
"I felt it yesterday. I took a day off after the final in Sydney. I started hitting. I went for one ball and felt pain in my left leg. I thought it was going to be OK. I went for one ball on the backhand and just felt it. I was, ‘Oh, no’. It's tough playing Rafa with two legs, let alone one," Tomic continued.
"I just had to go for my shots. I was putting no stress on my leg and it was still hurting when I had to run for any balls. I just felt like, if I continue playing, who knows, something worse can happen, cannot play maybe for a few months. I don't want to do that. I have to protect myself as much as I can."
"I felt really sorry for Bernard," Nadal said in commiseration. "I was in that situation a few years ago and I know how tough is to take that decision. But if you feel bad, there is no reason why you have to continue. You put in risk the next tournaments for nothing.
"Because if you are in bad shape, the chances to win a match like this are very few. The rallies were still not too much, my opinion, to say was a very high level. He was serving great. I was serving good."
Nadal's next opponent will be another Australian, 17-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis, who in some ways is not so dissimilar a character from Tomic.
"I practiced with him in the past," Nadal revealed. "He has a great future and will be a very tough match for me if I am not able to play my best."
Bernard, get well. Rafa, welcome back.